Heading north

Camp Lake Hubert and Camp Lincoln offer traditional sleepaway camp experiences in Minnesota’ss lake country

While many of her friends back in her hometown of Edina, Minnesota, are busy with sports or other summer activities, Erin Duggan, 13, is unplugged — without her cell phone or Internet access — for four weeks at Camp Lake Hubert near Nisswa, Minnesota.

No cell phones, no screens, no problem for Duggan.

“Without your phone, you really connect with people. I’m on it 24/7 when I’m at home, but when I’m at camp, it’s so healthy here without my phone,” she said.

Duggan said she’s developed lasting friendships and has gained confidence by learning a variety of life skills, such as horseback riding, riflery and sailing. And she feels less stressed.

Last year was her fifth year at Camp Lake Hubert.

“I feel so at home here,” Duggan said last summer as she sat back in an Adirondack chair among the exceptionally tall pines that line the lakeside camp. “I feel like I can be myself here.”

The toughest part of camp?

“The goodbyes become so much harder,” said Duggan, especially after five summers at camp.

A long history

Camp Lake Hubert, a 120-acre camp for girls, and its brother camp, Camp Lincoln, a 400-acre camp located across the lake, are two of the best-kept secrets in the Brainerd Lakes Area.

But the history of the twin camps is actually intertwined with the well-known historic resort Grand View Lodge, located about five miles away.

Camp Lincoln was built in 1909, opened by William Blake of The Blake School in Minneapolis, who named it The Blake Camp. In 1923, a former camp staffer, Reynolds Frederick Brownlee Cote, affectionally known as Brownie, bought the camp and changed the name to Camp Lincoln for Boys. In 1927, Cote opened Camp Lake Hubert for Girls across the lake.

After a decade of running both camps, Cote wanted to find a site for housing the parents of campers who attended his camps, so in 1937 he bought Grand View Lodge, which included the main lodge, its shoreline, and 320 acres of property.

Today, the camps and resorts are still owned by the Cote family. Brownie’s son, Sam Cote, manages the camps. Cote Family Destinations also includes a ranch vacation destination in Tucson, Arizona.

An international draw

Today the camps offer kids more than 40 different land and water activities. Each summer about 1,400 boys and girls attend the camps. Surprisingly, only about 25 percent are from Minnesota. Campers arrive from 42 different states and 13 different countries and stay for anywhere from four days to eight weeks.

Over the past century, more than 30,000 children have spent their summers on the shores of Lake Hubert. And many of the camp’s staff were once campers themselves.

Meanwhile, both camps have a strong alumni association with 22,000 active members. Anniversary weekends are held every five years. Family camp is offered at the end of each summer season, and many of those multi-generational campers are second- and third-generation alumni.

Ava Beverly, 10, of Oceanside, Calif., along with her twin sister, Kyla, have spent two weeks of the past four summers at Camp Lake Hubert. Their grandfather went to Camp Lincoln and their mother and her siblings attended camp here, too.

“I tell my friends from San Diego all about camp, like how pretty it is in the woods,” Beverly said. “Some people don’t get to see a forest like this.”

Charles Adams, 12, of suburban Philadelphia, spends four weeks each summer at Camp Lincoln, along with his 11-year-old brother, Grady. He’s been going to camp since he was 8. Adams said he’s discovered a passion for archery — a sport he learned at camp — and has even won several awards. He’s also learned how to build fires and other wilderness skills, which he likely wouldn’t have otherwise acquired.

“If I were home, it would probably be a boring summer,” Adams said. “Here you are always doing something.”

Attractions and amenities 

Camp Lincoln boasts a 53-foot outdoor climbing wall, an impressive structure surrounded by majestic pines. It’s wide enough to accommodate three climbers on each side at the same time. Six years ago, a bouldering wall was added, which is 10 feet high with a 76-foot climbing length. Girls from Camp Lake Hubert come over to use the climbing wall, and the boys from Camp Lincoln travel to Camp Lake Hubert to enjoy the high and low ropes courses as well as horseback riding.

Campers stay in touch with family by participating in biweekly Camper Writes. Families can send emails to camp, which are printed and distributed to campers. Once a week, the staff plan Special Days, featuring multiple planned activities, such as dances for older campers at both camps and Color Wars competitions.

Both camps celebrate birthdays as well as the Fourth of July, including spectacular fireworks shot off from shore. A sibling lunch is offered for siblings attending the camps. They get a chance to hang out together, play games with staff and share a picnic lunch.

Both camps will offer some new improvements for the coming summer season, including a new rec center and weight room for Camp Lincoln and an expanded Senior Dining Hall and updated kitchen at Camp Lake Hubert.

Lessons learned

Both camps aim to foster leadership and independence, but also core values and relationship building.

“We want to teach kids how to positively deal with challenges and issues that come up their entire life,” said Chris Anderson, of Amherst, Mass.

Anderson served as senior camp division director at Camp Lincoln last summer, his fourth year on staff. He was a camper himself for eight years, starting when he was 9.

“There’s something special about Camp Lincoln,” he said. “This is a unique and positive community. This is magical.”

Brent Taylor, a high school English teacher in Oklahoma City, Okla., who served on staff last year as a division director, added that campers aren’t simply pushed to be good at a sport or activity. They’re encouraged to try new things, even if they fail. If they fail, they’re encouraged to try again.

“We have so many people who are encouraging them,” Taylor said. “You don’t get that kind of energy outside of camp. I wish every kid could go to camp. It’s such an amazing place where kids learn to be good people.”

Camp Lincoln and Camp Lake Hubert

These historic camps — Camp Lincoln for boys and Camp Lake Hubert for girls — offer traditional camp experiences with 1930s-style log cabins with a bathroom in each cabin. Campers eat together in a dining hall and can participate in more than 40 activities, including horseback riding, sailing, waterskiing, tennis, trap shooting, a climbing wall, ropes courses, archery, golf, riflery, mountain biking and crew. Long-standing camp traditions include a daily flag-raising, campfire songs and an annual 1.5-mile swim from the boys’ camp to the girls’ camp. Both camps require kids to relinquish their digital devices upon arrival.

Ages: Kindergarten through 9th grade (based on grade most recently completed); family camp is open to all ages Aug. 11–16.
Dates: June –August
Location: Nisswa, Minnesota, north of Brainerd, about 21/2 hours north of the Twin Cities
Specialty co-ed and family camps are also available.
Info: lincoln-lakehubert.com

Jodie Tweed is a freelance writer living in Pequot Lakes.